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Environmental change mediates mate choice for an extended phenotype, but not for mate quality.

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posted on 2016-11-14, 11:36 authored by Megan L. Head, R. J. Fox, Iain Barber
Sexual cues, including extended phenotypes, are expected to be reliable indicators of male genetic quality and/or provide information on parental quality. However, the reliability of these cues may be dependent on stability of the environment, with heterogeneity affecting how selection acts on such traits. Here we test how environmental change mediates mate choice for multiple sexual traits, including an extended phenotype - the structure of male-built nests - in stickleback fish. First, we manipulated the dissolved oxygen (DO) content of water to create high or low DO environments in which male fish built nests. Then we recorded the mate choice of females encountering these males (and their nests), under either the same or reversed DO conditions. Males in high DO environments built more compact nests than those in low DO conditions and males adjusted their nest structure in response to changing conditions. Female mate choice for extended phenotype (male nests) was environmentally-dependent (females chose more compact nests in high DO conditions), while female choice for male phenotype was not (females chose large, vigorous males regardless of DO level). Examining mate choice in this dynamic context suggests that females evaluate the reliability of multiple sexual cues, taking into account environmental heterogeneity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


This work was funded by the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) via project grant awarded to I.B. (NE/F019440/1)



Evolution, 2016

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND PSYCHOLOGY/MBSP Non-Medical Departments/Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour


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Wiley for Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE)





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Parental fish were collected under permit from the UK Environment Agency and with the permission of the landowners. Laboratory studies were undertaken under the authority of a U.K. Home Office licence (PPL80/2327), in accordance with local and national regulations, and in line with ABS/ASAB guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals in behavioral research (available online at doi for our data is 10.5061/dryad.dc50c.



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